Kobe Bryant puts an old spin on his game

And for his next trick, Kobe Bryant will throw a baseball in the air behind his back, catch it on a fingertip and spin it like a basketball.

That actually was the scene Wednesday at Lakers practice, where Bryant donned a Dodgers cap and did the seemingly impossible in a promo for the baseball franchise across town.

The ball hit the court when Bryant threw it skyward, with the catch and spin (presumably) to be added electronically later.

But the symbolism remained: Nothing is out of reach for the Lakers guard.

After experiencing an extreme uptick in assists recently at the expense of his scoring, Bryant has been prolific in both categories over the last week.

He has averaged 35.7 points and 6.7 assists while helping the Lakers win two of three games to maintain their playoff push. Bryant has also rivaled Miami’s LeBron James as an efficiency expert over that stretch, making 40 of 67 (59.7%) shots.

“The odds were that it was coming,” Lakers guard Steve Nash said of Bryant’s scoring spree, which followed a three-game span in which he had averaged 13.3 points while making only 13 of 36 shots (36.1%). “He hadn’t made his shots for a while, which was very uncharacteristic, so some poor souls were going to take the brunt of that.”

Bryant said determining whether to be a shoot-first player is all about reading his opponents.

“It’s really just predicated on the defense, what they do,” he said. “You really just have to pick and choose. You’ll see some halves where they stay home on shooters and I do a lot of scoring and other times where they have to collapse on me a great deal and I do more playmaking.”

Not even Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni knows which Bryant will show up from game to game.

“During the game, you have to understand whether you want to be aggressive to the hole or aggressive to passing and try not to blur the two,” D’Antoni said. “It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but I think he’s doing a good job.”

Welcome back?

Bryant isn’t thrilled with Derek Fisher’s taste in NBA teams.

The former longtime Laker signed with Oklahoma City on Monday, the second time in 11 months the veteran point guard has joined the Thunder for a run at a championship.

“Well, that’s probably why I’m not happy about it,” Bryant said, alluding to Fisher’s joining one of the Lakers’ biggest rivals in the Western Conference. “He’s ready to go. He’s been training the whole time and he looks in shape and he’s ready to play, so I’m sure he’ll make a good contribution.”

Fisher, 38, has not played since asking Dallas to release him in December at a time when he was recovering from a knee injury.


Three weeks after suffering torn plantar fascia in his right foot, Pau Gasol has resumed working out on an elliptical machine. He is expected to miss another three to four weeks. … Dwight Howard ran sprints after practice to improve his conditioning and said he had also cut back on candy and undergone acupuncture treatments. “I’m in good shape for a basketball player,” he said, “but I’m not in Superman shape. I want to get in Superman shape.”